My dearest G,
from the land of durian. It's good to be
back to this beautiful place.
for the letter of welcome and congratulations you sent me last April. I
received it a few days after I arrived
present, I'm still going through a period of adjustment. I still find the heat unbearable. I also have to get used to the life of a professor instead of a student. I am
teaching two classes every week -- Christology on Fridays () and Ecclesiology on Saturdays ().
Although I have five days free, I
am busy preparing for my classes and helping out in the parish. I am also preparing my dissertation for
publication. I've been invited to give seminars on Inculturated Evangelization
in August. I was hoping to get some good
rest after my long years of study in
is full of surprises. My sister Cely
called me last week and she told me that she has decided to join your order in
Calbayog. She asked me if I could accompany her to your monastery on July
16. Of course, I wanted to say
"Yes." Unfortunately, I have a
class on July 15 and there is no direct flight from
Please take good care. I would like to ask for your prayer not only for me but for my sister Cely. May she be able to discern her vocation in life and persevere in it.
with all my love,
My dearest G,
I've just recovered from a flu so I now have the chance to write this letter. I was so glad to hear from you again. Your letter came at the time when I most needed it. The night before I had difficulty going to sleep -- I was feeling so alone, I longed for someone to be at my side. God seemed so far away. I thought about you but you also seemed so far away. I was wondering if you still remember me in your prayers. Your letter is a source of comfort. Knowing that I am dear to your heart and that you continue to pray for me will help me get through this loneliness and depression.
was also a source of joy to receive a letter from my sister Cely written from
Calbayog for the first time. I never dreamed
or expected that one day she will be
writing me from your monastery instead
of from the
book "Basic Ecclesial Communities in the
have a two-month break from classes (September and October). I thought I can fully relax but there is so much to
have to prepare my class syllabus and lesson plan for the classes that
will begin the first week of November.
Tomorrow, I will give a four-day seminar on PCP II Ecclesiology to the
novices of the Missionaries of the Assumption.
So this week is gone. Two weeks
from now I will be giving a seminar in
Dumaguete (September 26-29).
After that I will go on a retreat
at the Trappist Monastery in
So I am looking forward to seeing you and Cely. Please take care. You are constantly remembered in my prayers.
My dearest G,
Birthday Greetings! I hope this letter reaches you on time.
When I arrived here ten days ago the beautiful birthday card you and Cely sent was already waiting for me. That was, indeed, a "bonus" -- after seeing you face to face a few days before.
thank the Lord and
I am very thankful to you also for what you are doing for my sister. I know that it is very difficult to deal with her. She is a person who has gone through a lot of hurts and pain and who needs inner healing. As I told you, I am not praying for her perseverance (I will only do that if she is professed). I am praying that she will discover what her true vocation in life is and that she will experience healing. If she really wants to be a Poor Clare, I want to be sure that she is doing it because she wants to dedicate her whole life to God and not because she is scared of men or she is afraid of marriage. As her formator, you will later on make the decision whether to recommend her for the novitiate and for profession. When the time comes please don't let our friendship influence your decision. As you well put it: she is not my extension.
am enclosing some photocopied excerpts from Thomas Moore's book, Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love
and Relationship. I like the book very much. In the
On the of your birthday, as you lie awake in your chapel praying for those who have asked for your prayers -- including me, I will also keep vigil and unite myself to you in prayer.
My dearest G,
The Christmas songs fill the air as the Misa de Gallo begins. This reminds me of you since it was around this time three years ago that I first received a letter from you. It was the best Christmas gift that I ever received - the gift of friendship. I believe it was an answer to my prayer. This is what makes this season personally special for me - because you are so special to me.
How is everything in Calbayog? How is my sister Cely? I hope she is adjusting well to the monastic life.
I've been very busy here as usual since the beginning of the second semester. Thank God we are about to start our Christmas break. I will be starting a journey on a bicycle next week.
Last month, I bought a mountain bike. I've been training daily, biking up and down
the hills overlooking
Please extend my warm Christmas Greetings to the community.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
With all my love,
My dearest G,
Happy Easter! May the joy of the risen Lord fill your heart. How is my dearest friend? I hope you are in the best of health and you're no longer worried about your mother.
I am still trying to get back to my regular diet after fasting for one week. I was able to survive by drinking a delicious juice made from mango, carrots and tomatoes. I lost 8 pounds so I don't look like someone who is five months pregnant anymore.
has been a very busy week. I gave a
couple of recollections, heard confessions and presided over the liturgical
celebrations. I've also been doing a lot
of practice climbing up the hill at the back of our monastery. I will be climbing
Our classes ended last month and I've been trying to get some rest. I'm trying to recover from a recurring disease called boredom and depression. It usually hits me when I am no longer busy preparing for classes or beating deadlines.
would like to ask for your prayers for the general assembly of the
Redemptorists in Visayas and
the assembly, I will be taking my vacation --
one week in Iligan and two weeks in the
I'm looking forward to my visit to Calbayog. I was hoping I could see you this summer but Cely informed me that I can visit her only this July during her investiture. So I'll have to wait for another four months. It is indeed a great source of joy and happiness for me to meet you face to face.
Take care and God bless,
My dearest G,
Happy Pentecost! May the Holy Spirit continue to enkindle in your heart the fire of her love.
When I returned from my summer escapade, the first thing that I checked was my mailbox. I had been longing and praying to hear from you. I was overjoyed when I saw the package from you and Cely. Thank you very much for not forgetting me, for your prayers and for the "Prayer of St. Francis" (it now hangs on the wall near my bed).
encounter with your Franciscan brothers went very well. They had invited Archbishop Orlando Quevedo
to give the keynote address to their Pastoral Conference. A week before the conference, Quevedo told them that he could not make it
due to his sickness. So the
organizer called me and asked if I could give the keynote address
on the theme "The Church of the
Poor." Apparently some Franciscans had read my book and recommended me to
take Quevedo's place. I was also asked
to bring copies of my book. So I took the plane on a Monday night, gave
my address on a Tuesday morning and then took the flight back to
summer, I was away for five weeks. After
our General Assembly in
my vacation in Iligan I spent ten days of solitude, prayer and silence in Busay. This is my sacred space. The last time I was in Busay was in 1989
before I left for the
the third week of May I attended a seminar for formators at the Holy Family
Retreat House. It was entitled
"Formation Process and Vocation Discernment." This is a seminar
offered for those who have previously done the FIS (Formators'
I am glad to hear that your mother is alright now. With regard to the special intention that you are intensely praying for, I was hoping at first that God will not grant it because it would mean losing the opportunity to see you. But if going “abroad” -- to Siquijor -- is what you desire most, if it will really make you happy, then I will pray that your intention will be granted. However, you have to be prepared to accept whatever decision your community makes. As you well know, in religious life, not everything you want or desire will be granted. Sometimes the community or your superiors will think that you are more needed where you are now (as a formator, for example) rather than elsewhere. This is the same that happened to me. What I desired most was to spend the rest of my priestly life giving mission in the remote barrios and helping build Basic Ecclesial Communities. I was also dreaming of spending my sabbatical year in my hermitage in Busay. Instead I was sent for further studies and then assigned to work in formation. I was told that this was where I was most needed. And all I can say is: not my will but God's will be done. Of course, there is a tendency to think that our will or desire is also God's will. Sometimes they coincide. At other times they don't. So let's hope that what you are intensely praying for is really God's will. At the same time prepare yourself for the possibility that it might not be God's will. We are not really in full control of our life, our future or our destiny. There are tasks or roles that you don't want to do but which you are asked to do (such as being novice-mistress, or perhaps, even exercising leadership in the future). Since much has been given to you, much will be asked of you. That is the price for being gifted.
How is my sister Cely? She invited me to attend her investiture this July. I would like to know when it will be.
Please don't apologize for not answering or acknowledging immediately my letters. As I told you before, I respect your silence and you do not have any obligation to write to me. You once told me that as a rule you do not maintain regular correspondence with anyone and that I am the only exception. For this I am very grateful and I consider every letter from you as a gift and a reminder that I continue to occupy a special space in your heart and in your prayers. I've been wondering why I always think of you every day. It's probably the effect of prayerfully keeping me in your heart and in your daily communion. Now I find myself being drawn to pray in the middle of the night knowing there is someone who prays for me. And although she is far away, I feel so close to her -- and I pray for her and with her.
Please take care, always remember that God loves you -- and so do I. Hope to see you soon.
hope that by now you are finally settled and fully adjusted to your new home
amidst the vampira, mananangal and wak-wak of
was very glad to see you in Calbayog. Cely had told me when I arrived that I
might not have the opportunity to talk with you since you were no longer her
novice-mistress. She said you might just
drop in to say hello during our encounter with the community that night. When
you didn't turn up I felt very sad.
Thinking I might not have the chance to see you I told Cely to give you the gift I brought from
I was in Iligan last week giving a seminar to our lay missioners who are undergoing training at the Alphonsian Lay Formation Institute. I had a very tight schedule and the only time I could visit home was in the evening. I met Nonie and her kids. We talked about Cely and about our last visit in Calbayog. We were also talking about you and your new responsibility as fund raiser for your community. We remembered you telling us that you don't even have a typewriter to write your solicitation letter. It so happens that Nonie has a computer and two typewriters. She would be willing to give you one of the typewriters since she is no longer using them.
will be in
On September 27, we will officially become an independent province. Fr. Pat Reynolds will be coming to attend the inauguration and our provincial chapter. Please pray for us, Redemptorists, as we make this big step.
Love and prayers,
My dearest G,
Happy Birthday! I join you in thanking God for the gift of life and all the blessings He has showered you. How young are you now? Thirty five or thirty six? Congratulations, you are about to enter a very exciting period of your life -- the midlife. Don't be afraid. Even if you will experience some turbulence and confusion, it is also an opportunity for growth. They say that nuns are particularly vulnerable during midlife -- so you'd better watch out (or is it we who should watch out for you?)
of midlife, we have just finished our midlife retreat in
Fr. Calpotura spoke about the different crises that one encounters in midlife:
(1) crisis of bodily changes, (2) crisis of affectivity,(3) crisis of unfinished business, (4) death-awareness, (5) crisis of faith, (6) crisis of ministry and (7) crisis of sexuality and intimacy
Some of these crises I have already experienced. I still have to face the others. I hope I don't have to go through the crisis of sexuality and intimacy -- I know how vulnerable I am.
You came to my life at a time when I was just entering my midlife. You have been a source of consolation and inspiration for me. Our retreat director told us that we need a friend who can accompany us through our midlife journey. I believe that you are the friend that God has sent me for this inner journey. For this I thank you and I thank God for being there at the time that I most need you. I hope that, I too, can be your companion in your own midlife journey.
I wish I can be there to celebrate with you the gift of life. Since that is not possible, I will unite myself to you in prayer during the vigil of your birthday.
My dearest G,
Greetings from the
How are things with you? Are the insects still infatuated with your beautiful skin? Can't blame them for wanting to bite you. You need to develop a thicker skin not only against the insects but to help you in your work as fund-raiser or "official beggar" for your community. I hope you have encountered a lot of generous benefactors. I wish I can win in the Lotto so that I can share with you the prize. The problem is that I don't buy lotto tickets.
Your friend here is still very much alive and kicking. So many things have happened since we last met. The retreat I gave to the Redemptoristines in Legazpi turned out well. It was the first time that I gave a retreat to contemplative nuns -- and for ten days! I was lucky to survive the ordeal. The theme of the retreat was "The Consecrated Life as a Sign of Communion." It is based on Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation on the consecrated life "Vita Consecrata." I emphasized to the sisters that their primary call is not to a life of perfection but rather to a life of loving communion with God and with one another. The sessions that appealed much to the sisters was on "Friendship within the community" and "Communion with the Significant Others"
Last week, the list of the superiors and members of the various Redemptorist communities was released. I have been appointed as the new superior of the Davao Redemptorist community in addition to being a member of the Extraordinary Provincial Council and also a formator. As superior, I am supposed to be the spiritual pastor and coordinator of a community made up of Irish and Filipino confreres most of whom are older than me. It’s really no big deal. I still have to learn how to be a good superior. Please pray for me that I may be able to discharge my various responsibilities faithfully and effectively.
Please extend my warm greetings to Sr. Clare and the other members of your community. I hope I can visit your beautiful island someday and stay for a longer period.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I am just recovering from a motorcycle accident. Last Sunday, as I was going up the fly-over, the tires hit an oil slick. I skidded and crashed . Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet so the injury wasn't very serious. No broken bones. Just a slight dislocation of the shoulder that was immediately put back in place. The bruises haven't healed yet. I still have difficulty using my right leg and my right arm and shoulder. But that doesn't prevent me from writing this letter to you.
So you were able to leave the monastery and go on a junket. I am glad you visited Nonie. I hope you were able to solicit for the monastery construction besides the plants. I'm sorry to hear that the construction stopped because of lack of funds. I pray and hope there will be a lot of generous people who will come to your aid soon.
Congratulations for the canonical erection of your monastery. Does this mean that you won't be able to go on a junket anymore? So who was elected as the new Abbess? I hope it was not you. I know how distressed you would be if you were elected.
Week is just around the corner and I have a lot of work to do.
Besides the liturgical activities,
I will be conducting some recollections and a retreat.
After Easter, I will lead a mountain climbing expedition to
So all the best. Happy Easteer to you and your sisters.
Belated feast day! I was actually thinking about you during the feast of St. Clare last week and I planned to write you but as usual I was swamped with so many pressing matters that I had to attend to.
wonder if Cely was around during the novena and the feast day. The last time I talked to her on the phone
she told me that she was going to Siquijor.
I had been waiting for her to return to
Thanks a lot for allowing me to spend a few days in your monastery. It was very relaxing and energizing. It was, indeed, a break from the various demands of the apostolic and academic life. My only regret was I did not have much time to talk to you and the sisters. Anyway, just seeing you and conversing with you briefly was enough. Besides the atmosphere of prayer and silence, it was being with you that was so energizing.
My life is here is so hectic. I spend most of my time preparing for class, teaching, celebrating mass in the church and the barrios, giving seminars to our leaders, officiating at weddings, attending parish staff meetings, etc. Lately, I have been asked to give workshops on the Enneagram. As the superior of the community, I also have to make sure that we hold our regular community meetings, recollections, recreation, etc. The months ahead will even be more hectic. I have BEC talks and seminars in Lipa, Cagayan de Oro, Naval and Pagadian. I also have to attend meetings of the community secretariat, finance secretariat and the Extra-ordinary Provincial Council. With all these activities I am so drained that I have little energy left for prayer and meditation. There are so many things that remain unfinished: my autobiography, the volume of poems, the songs that I have been trying to compose, the seminar modules, the book on basic Christian teachings, etc. I have very little time for jogging and cycling. So I am now terribly out of shape and overweight. Why did I have to accept these responsibilites? I hope I won't burn out. All I want to do now is to drop everything and live as a hermit in the mountain of Busay. I will probably be allowed to do that in the year 2005!
I have to sign off now. There are so many things I have to do. Please continue to remember me in your prayers. My warmest regards to your community.
October 22, 1997
My dearest G,
Thank you so much for remembering me on my 43rd birthday. Thank you also reminding me of the need to pray. I think I should make you my spiritual director.
I spent my birthday with my middle-age confreres at the beautiful Samal Island. We actually had our annual gathering of the Redemptorist mid-lifers. In the evening of my birthday I flew to Manila to attend the National Consultation on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) which was held in Tagaytay at the St. Scholastica' Center of Spirituality. This was organized by the NASSA (National Secretariat for Social Action). I was invited as a resource person and I also gave the keynote address. It was attended by the directors or representatives of the various programs and institutions involved in building BECs all over the Philippines.
I have just learned that three of our young priests are going on leave of absence. They will probably leave the congregation after a year. This is, indeed, a devastating news for many of us. This is not the first time that our priests have fallen in love with their lay co-workers. We are trying to find where the source of the problem is. Is it in our formation program? Or is it the program of working with lay missionaries (many of whom are attractive women)? We do not have clear cut answers. I know that with our present set up, it is easy to fall in love with attractive women that we are working with in the mission. That's why when I was still working with the mission, I jokingly suggested the policy that we should not accept pretty women as lay missionaries. Of course, I got a lot of negative reaction.
What happened to my young confreres could also have happened to me. I was just fortunate that during my most vulnerable moments, there was no one who was really interested in me and I was used to maintaining a safe distance especially from women whom I found very attractive. I was also constantly conscious of the commitment I had made and my desire to live and die as a Redemptorist. The more I was attracted to women, the more I tried to avoid becoming close to them even if that was what I longed for. You know when I was just a young priest in Tacloban, I wanted to become close to you. But I was afraid I would fall in love so I tried to keep distance. I think it was the appropriate thing to do at that time. That has been the pattern of my relationships ever since. There are boundaries that I will not cross.
I will be leaving this Saturday for Naval to give a BEC seminar to the priests, religious
and lay leaders of the diocese. From there I will proceed to Pagadian to give a talk on BECs to the bishops and clergy of the DOPIM (Dipology, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan and Marawi) sub-region. I will be back in Davao by November 6 -- just in time for the start of the second semester.
Happy Birthday! I will be one with you in my prayers and mass during your birthday.
December 17, 1997
My dearest G,
I hope everything is well with you and the community. I presume that the construction of your monastery is finished by now.
So how did the birthday celebration last month go? Turning 36 is not really that bad, you are as old as you feel. Anyway you look ten years younger and your beauty has not faded. If you keep on smiling, you won't have any wrinkles in your face. But be careful, you are entering a vulnerable period of your life -- the midlife. An older confrere used to warn us: "Be careful of nuns in their midlife -- they are vulnerable and they can easily fall in love. You should not play with their emotions." I don't know if he was speaking from experience or if it was just his prejudice. But I followed his advice and avoided deep friendship with nuns. You are the only exception.
The BEC Seminar for the diocese of Naval went very well. Bishop Bactol and all his priests attended the seminar including some lay leaders coming from all the parishes. From Naval I proceed to Pagadian to give a talk on BECs to the 22nd DOPIM bishops-clergy annual convention. It was attended by four bishops and over a hundred priests coming from five dioceses. One of the resource persons, Msgr. Desmond Hartford, failed to deliver his address because he was kidnapped by Muslim rebel-returnees a week before.
I was in Cebu during the last week of November for our Extraordinary Provincial Council meeting. After the Council meeting, I proceeded to Cagayan de Oro to give a six-day seminar to the BEC workers of the archdiocese. There were actually two batches. Seventy-five attended the first batch and 60 came for the second batch. After the seminar, I came home to Davao feeling exhausted.
Christmas is just around the corner. I will be spending Christmas here in Davao. After Christmas I will proceed to Iligan for a week's holiday and to greet the New Year 1998.
Please extend my warm Christmas greetings to the Mother Abbess and the members of your community. I miss the restful and contemplative atmosphere of your monastery -- and most of all, you. I hope I can see visit you again some time in May.
March 17, 1998
My dearest G,
I was in Borongan during the last week of February giving a seminar on BECs to the clergy, religious and lay leaders from all the parishes of the diocese. Around two hundred people attended the seminar. Bishop Medroso had invited me earlier to give the seminar a few days before the official promulgation of the decrees of the diocesan synod. The bishop and the people were surprised that I could speak to them in mixed Waray and English. I, too, was surprised because I thought that I had forgotten the language I learned 17 years ago. There was an enthusiastic response from the participants. The synod had adopted the formation of BECs as the pastoral thrust and program of the whole diocese and of each parish. This was the fourth BEC seminar I had given since the beginning of this year. On the second week of January I gave a BEC seminar to the new Redemptorist Lay Missioners and Parish Workers. Two weeks later, I gave a BEC seminar to the formands of several religious congregations of sisters in Mindanao. Then during the first week of February, I gave a talk on BECs to the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese of Malaybalay, Bukidnon. After I got back from Samar and the secretariat meetings in Cebu, I caught the flu and spent the whole week recovering. This was probably a message from my Brother Body to take it easy and slow down. I'm getting tired travelling around and giving seminars.
Cely wrote me recently. She said that she was hospitalized last February. After her recovery, she went to Josefina to visit the Poor Clares. She is going back there this April and spend a longer time living with them and observing them. She is also going to spend her Holy Week with the Carmelites in Cagayan de Oro. I told her not to make any instant decision and spend more time discerning where God really wants her to go.
Before Holy Week, I will be climbing Mt. Apo with some seminarians. We will make this climb a contemplative wilderness experience. As we make our ascent, we will be reflecting on some biblical themes and we will have some sharing and celebration of the Eucharist by the campfire each night. The mountain is considered a sacred space -- a place where we can feel the presence of God. Thus, in the bible we hear about Moses conversing with God on top of the mountain. Jesus often went up the mountain to pray. Of course, our very own St. Francis spent much time in the mountains of La Verna to pray. Thus, mountain climbing is not just a physical activity -- it is also a contemplative activity.
My sister Nonie, her husband Dodong and their children (John-john, Jing-jing and Mic-mic) will be spending their Holy Week here in Davao. We have just finished renovating our guest rooms so they will be staying in our monastery. I will be bringing them to our beach house in Samal Island and stay there overnight. Nonie and the kids are excited about the idea of joining our Good Friday way of the cross which is longer that the original route that Jesus walked in Jerusalem. Our way of the cross begins at three o'clock in the morning and finishes five hours later. It is actually a ten kilometer route around our parish. Last year, over 5,000 people joined the way of the cross.
I will be going to Iloilo during the Easter week to facilitate the gathering of young Redemptorists. I will take two-weeks off after that. I am thinking of visiting the enchanted island of Siquijor from April 22-25. I would be glad to conduct several study sessions with your sisters while I am there. If you won't be around during that time, please inform me beforehand so that I can postpone my visit. It is you that I really want to see and not the island.
So I wish an advanced Easter Greetings! Please extend my warm regards to the mother Abbess and the sisters.
With all my love,
June 21, 1998
My dearest G,
Greetings! I've been planning to write you since I arrived but as usual I couldn't find the time. I have to cope with all the work in the parish, the church, the seminary and the university. After the refreshing vacation in Siquijor, I find myself once again exhausted with all these responsibilities. I am teaching four courses this semester, I have to fulfill my responsibility as superior of this community, I am doing some parish work (celebrating barrio masses, animating the parish staff, giving seminars to our BEC leaders, solemnizing a lot of weddings) and I will be acting parish priest starting this July. I am helping edit case studies on BECs in the Philippines. I have to finish writing four books. I have to attend so many meetings as a member of the Extraordinary Provincial Council, three secretariats and one commission in the province. I have also been elected as a member of the presbyteral council in the archdiocese so, I have to attend regular meetings with the archbishop. I don't know how much longer can I keep on going without burning out. The only thing that keeps me going is prayer. At least now I find more time in prayer -- and it is during my times of prayer that I feel most relaxed and well rested. Prayer is becoming a necessity for me. I don't even say anything much during prayer. I just make myself still, fully relax, fully aware of the presence of Christ. I also remember you during the time of prayer. So I don't really feel alone as I pray in the middle of the night and during siesta time. It is in prayer that I feel so close to Jesus -- and to you.
I would like to thank you for that wonderful time I had with you and your community. I think it was a good idea having the mornings to myself (for jogging, swimming, boating) and the afternoons for sharing with the community. I just felt so relaxed and well rested during that week. The time with you and the community was very energizing. There are some scenes that have become part of the beautiful memory that I will always treasure and replay in mind:
dinner by candlelight with you and your community (due to the brownout)
celebrating my anniversary of ordination
celebrating our communion and friendship
laughing at the funny stories of the sisters
being able to talk with you without the grills between us
sharing with you my fears and anxieties
listening to your words of wisdom and comfort
praying over you, holding your hand, your ear and your head
trying to heal you with my touch and love
these are the moments that I wished would never end (that would be heaven)
I will be leaving next month for Korea. The Redemptorist General Government has requested our province to take responsibility for the Korean mission. As a member of the Foreign Mission Commission, I was asked to visit Korea and get first hand information of the situation so that we can make a decision during our Provincial Chapter next year.
Please pray for my sister, Cely. She was hospitalized last week after visiting the Poor Clare monastery in Josefina. She was having this chronic pain in the stomach which could be ulcer. She has so many ailments that I wonder if she would make it as a Poor Clare.
My warmest regards and greetings to Mother Abbess and the community, God Bless!
Iligan City, October 24, 1998
My dearest G,
Greetings from the land of my birth. Actually, I'm just passing through. I was in Dipolog from October 19-22 for the 10th Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference. This is the tri-annual gathering of the 21 dioceses in Mindanao. There were 340 delegates who attended -- bishops, priests, religious brothers & sisters, and lay leaders. The theme was "The TMA (Tertio Millenio Anno) call to Holiness: Mindanao BECs towards Peace and Integral Development." There were three speakers: Archbishop Fernando Capalla (The TMA call to Holiness), Bishop Antonio Ledesma (Peace and Development) and yours truly (BECs). Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblo of Butuan diocese was assigned as the reactor to my talk. I felt it a great honor and privilege to be invited to address such an assembly. The conference adopted the vision and many of my recommendations regarding the BECs in Mindanao. I got to know personally most of the bishops of Mindanao and some have already invited me to give talks to their priests. I hope I will continue to be of service to the local churches of Mindanao as a theologian.
Immediately after the conference I proceeded to Josefina. The monastery is about two kilometers away from the town and nestling at the foot of Mt. Malindang. Cely was very excited to see me. She appeared to be at home there. She looked happy and healthy. Her various ailments seem to be gone. She has been assigned as one of the "dog-catchers" (every evening the nine dogs are released to patrol the grounds and in the morning Cely and two other sisters have to catch them and put them on leash). I met the 15 other sisters in the sacristy right after the mass. The Franciscan chaplain (Fr. Bertram) became wide-eyed when he saw the sisters kissing me (actually they just buzzed my cheek). They were so warm and welcoming and we talked for 45 minutes until they realized that they were already late for breakfast. They wanted me to stay another day and give them a talk but I was in a hurry to visit home.
I'm staying here in Iligan for a couple of days. Tomorrow, I leave for Cebu. I'll be spending ten days in Busay for rest, prayer and study. Actually, this is unscheduled but I felt I have to take time off -- I feel exhausted. Last month, I was afflicted by sore eyes and this was followed by a painful gout on my knee. When I went to the hospital for treatment and check-up, my doctor told me that I have a defective liver, high blood sugar (which could lead to diabetes), high cholesterol, and hypertension. She said that this may be the result of stress, obesity and lack of exercise. Well, I've had a very hectic and stressful schedule these last few months. So I need to get some rest, go on diet and lose some weight. Time to go to my sacred space in Busay. I hope I can be revitalized after ten days. After that I will be attending three meetings: Apostolic Secretariat, Community Secretariat and Extraordinary Provincial Council. Then I will give a retreat to the priests of Tandag. I go back to Davao on November 22 and teach three courses for the second semester. Whew!
Thanks a lot for remembering me on my birthday. Of course, I haven't forgotten yours. So advance happy birthday, my friend. I was actually thinking of visiting you on November 8 since the Apostolic Secretariat meeting ends on November 7 and the Community Secretariat meeting begins on the 9th. But when I looked at the shipping schedule there's no boat that leaves for Larena on Saturday evening and comes back to Cebu on Sunday evening. Sayang! Maybe I can spend a few days in your monastery some time in April.
Please give my warm regards to the sisters.
December 14, 1998
My dearest G,
How is my beloved friend? I hope everything's well with you. You are always in my mind and heart, especially at this time. I always associate the season of Christmas with the gift of our friendship.
Things are getting better for me. Going back to my sacred in space in Busay did wonders for me. I was able to rest, relax and pray. I subsisted on fruits and vegetables -- and occasionally cooked spaghetti for myself. I was able to go out for long walks and run up the hills and mountains. Even with the meetings I attended and the retreat I gave for the Tandag Clergy afterwards, I came back to Davao feeling refreshed. I lost 12 pounds of fat and my blood sugar and pressure have gone down. I was even able to join the 10 km race last week. I have started my training for the Davao Marathon. So I'm slowly getting back in shape and shedding my pregnant look.
How is Sr. Carmen? Has her condition improved? I felt sorry for her when the healing sessions didn't have much effect. I wish I had more time. Anyway, I kept my promise to pray continually for her healing. I hope she'll still be around when I visit Siquijor this summer. I would like to continue the healing sessions. How about you? Are the ringing in the ears still bothering you? I'm afraid I didn't have much luck with you either. One thing that I have realized and come to accept is that I can't heal everyone. I'd be very happy if 50% of them get well. Recently, I have been able to heal a woman sick with leukemia, a boy who was seeing double, and a woman with a growth in her liver. It is a mystery how some can be healed and others cannot. I have to be humble enough to accept that their healing does not totally depend on me -- it depends on the faith of the patient and the power that comes from the Divine Healer. Besides, healing is not only physical -- it embraces the different dimensions of our nature -- the psycho-emotional, spiritual, etc.
Years ago, Henri Nouwen wrote a book entitled, "Wounded Healer." I think that aptly describes me. While I try to heal others, the more I realize that I need healing myself. The healing that I need is not only physical. I need to be healed within. The physical ailments are only outward manifestation of the wound within -- grief, anger, hurts, guilt, etc. As I slowly recover from my physical ailments, I am reminded of the need for a deeper healing. I would like to ask you to please pray for me that I may experience this type of healing. I believe that you can be a channel of God's healing grace.
A Blessed Christmas to you and the sisters in your community.
July 11, 1999
My dearest G,
How are things in the enchanted isle of Siquijor? I've been planning to write you and thank you for the wonderful time I had in your monastery last April but as usual I kept putting it off due to my tight schedule and my mańana habit.
So many things have happened since we last saw each other. During the last week of April, I climbed Mt. Apo together with two other priests, a seminarian, our guide and porters. We got lost in the forest and ran out of water. We slept in the middle of the forest and subsisted on bread since we couldn't do any cooking. Thank God we were able to find our way and discover a spring the following morning. We slept at the peak on the second night. It was freezing weather but we survived the cold. It rained the whole time we were coming down and I got sick. It took me a week to recover.
On the second week of May I underwent training in scuba diving at Samal island. My sister Mely paid for the course. It was a very risky and beautiful experience. I learned to dive up to 80 feet underwater and met the creatures of the sea. Luckily, there were no sharks. I have already explored the coral reef in front of our beach house. It is so extensive and there's a lot of fish and I have not reached the bottom of the sea yet -- it is so deep. Now you'll have to pray for my safety whenever I go diving under the sea.
The music festival in June turned out very well. There were over 20 entries submitted and 13 compositions were accepted. The various choirs also performed. I sang two of my compositions backed up by a band.
During the last week of June I conducted a BEC orientation seminar to the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. Lately, I have been giving a seminar on Ecclesiology and BECs to the trainees of the Philippine Catholic Lay Mission here in Davao.
This semester I am teaching four courses: Fundamental Theology, Advanced Christology, Church History, and Ecclesiology. I have classes from Wednesday to Saturday. Most of my speaking engagements and BEC seminars are usually done on Mondays and Tuesdays. So as you can see I have a very hectic schedule.
The results of the election of the Provincial have been announced. Fr. Louie Hechanova is our new provincial superior. I was one of the top three contenders. Thank God, not so many were crazy enough to vote for me.
We will be having our provincial chapter next month and I have been elected as a delegate. I have also been appointed as one of the chapter moderators and a member of the preparatory commission. I feel overwhelmed by all these work and responsibilities. And I still have a lot of unfinished work ( e.g. editing three books). I long for the day when I can just go off to Siquijor and spend my time in silence, solitude, prayer, writing, composing songs, swimming, and talking with you.
Please extend my warm regards to the sisters. I look forward to see you on May 2000 - next millennium.
p.s. I am enclosing one of the songs that I composed. I am using this in my Christology seminars for the BECs. This is an example of an inculturated Christology patterned after the Pabasa sa Pasyon.
September 27, 1999
My beloved G,
It's been quite some time since I heard from you and I really miss you so much. I hope everything is alright with you.
The situation here in Davao is becoming tense and unstable. There are a lot of people who are becoming disenchanted with the present government. In spite of its protestation of being for the poor (Erap para sa mahirap), the Estrada administration is being perceived as promoting the interest of the the rich and the foreign capitalists. The NPA guerrilla units are expanding their base. Even within the parish, we have heard reports that the NPAs are back. Recently, some leaders of the National Democratic Front (NDF) approached me and asked for my support. I told them that I was willing to support the peace process but I cannot support the armed struggle or their guerrilla war. As a priest, I am willing to make a prophetic stance vis-a-vis the present regime but I cannot support any political/ideological group.
I am worried about what is happening. It seems that the Marcos era is coming back. Even the military is once again using the old techniques of the dictatorial regime -- like the bombing of innocent civilians in the hinterlands and the salvaging of prisoners. As the NPA becomes more active, the government forces react with intense militarization. The civilian militia -- the CAFGU-- are once again being mobilized in the counter-insurgency war. I am afraid the spiral of violence is coming back.
What is worst is that Estrada is bent on changing the constitution. He wants to take out all the nationalist and protectionist provisions so that foreign capitalists can exploit the economy without any hindrance. He also has a hidden agenda: the extension of term limits, the introduction of anti-democratic laws (national ID system, warrantless arrest, etc.).
Last August 20, we held a prayer rally here in Davao. It was actually a nationwide activity spearheaded by Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino. There were so many people who participated in the rally in Davao. Our church was one of the three assembly points and I was one of the speakers. A few weeks after the rally, I was asked to give some talks on the moral theological perspectives on the charter change issue. I also helped train members of the speakers' bureau who were to go around the parishes and schools to campaign against charter change.
On September 21, we had several activities to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. NEVER AGAIN! This was our message to the Estrada government. So we are continuing our efforts to counter-act Estrada's anti-poor, anti-democratic and anti-Filipino policies. I thought I could rest from all these kind of activities that we used to do during Martial Law. Now we are once again being challenged to speak out. Please pray for our country, the leaders and the people. I am worried about what's happening. Yet I am confident that God will never abandon us as we continue the struggle to bring about justice, peace and social transformation.
October 6, 1999
Today I celebrate my 45th birthday. I wanted to keep my birthday a secret but it was impossible. A big sign on the board announced my birthday. There was a community celebration in the evening. Our cook, Nene, prepared something special for dinner. I also cooked spaghetti ala picx. Late in the evening, the sisters of the Missionaries of the Assumption called to greet me. They said that they just found out it was my birthday. Anyway, we will have the celebration when I come on Friday morning for the regular tai-chi lesson and mass.
I spent the whole day in prayerful thanksgiving. As I review the forty-five years of my life I realize that there is so much I'd like to thank God for: my life, my parents who brought me into this world, my talents, my vocation, my friends and my confreres. All of these are signs of God's love for me. These have made me aware that I am God's Beloved -- that I am truly Amado. This seems to be the central theme of my life although it has taken me a long time to become fully aware of this. The experience of being loved makes me aware of the need to love others -- from being the beloved to being the lover. This love will have to be expressed in a more concrete and effective way. This is the task for the next half of my life.
It is said that during his lifetime, a man has to do three things: father a child, plant a tree and write a book. I have not fathered a child -- even if I am addressed as Father. I have not planted a tree, although I have struggled to protect the forests. I will have to be content with writing a book -- the book of my life. I can also exercise my spiritual paternity and generativity towards the people I am called to serve and work with -- especially the younger generation.
As I celebrate 45 years of living, I am surprised that I really do not feel that old. It is really true that the mind and the heart does not age.
My dearest G,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, New Century, New Millenium. I doubt if this letter will reach you in time for Christmas -- knowing the slow pace of the mail to Siquijor. (I hope they will make use of the witches' broom or the mananangal to speed up the mail). Just the same, you are always remembered in my prayers and masses especially this Christmas. I always associate Christmas with the gift of our friendship.
So how have you been? I hope that everything is fine with you. I am glad to know that Sr. Carmen's condition has stabilized and you don't have to spend most of your energy taking care of her. I will continue to pray for her full recovery. How's the construction going? I pray that there will be more generous donors this coming year.
I attended the investiture of Cely in Josefina last October 28. My sisters Nonie and Mely and nephew John Paul also came for the occasion. I was asked to be the presider and the homilist. The investiture actually preceded the Eucharist. It was very moving -- watching Cecille wear the habit and her hair being cut (like St. Clare). Her new name is St. Mary Niklaus (or Sr. Nikki for short) after our mother's name Nicolasa. Let's pray that she will persevere in her vocation. She seems to be at home in Josefina. It's like paradise -- have you been there?
After Josefina, I went to Puerto Princesa (Palawan) to join 12 other Redemptorists in our Midlifer's vacation. I had a very relaxing time with my confreres. We explored the underground river in St. Paul's, visited the crocodiles and went to an exotic island resort, Dos Palmas, where we had kayaking and snorkeling. I also went scuba diving and explored a shipwreck. We were lucky to get 50% discount in the resort and hotel accommodation.
I came back to Davao in the second week of November just in time for the opening of the second semester. I am teaching three subjects this semester: Christology, Christian Anthropology and Missiology. My work load is lighter this time. My term of office as superior has ended and I turned over my responsibility to Fr. Abdon Josol -- our new superior. I am no longer a member of the Extraordinary Provincial Council and of any secretariat. What a relief ! For the next three years my main responsibility will be teaching and working in the parish. That gives me more time for writing and giving talks.
I have almost finished writing my book, The Beloved. It is about discovering God in the story of my life. You are part of the story. I believe that through you and through our friendship God is drawing me closer to himself. I can no longer believe that a woman is a source of temptation -- someone who is a hindrance to loving God or a hindrance to my vocation. You have helped deepen my faith and strengthened my vocation.
I had my executive check-up the other month and it seems that I still have problems with my health. My cholesterol is high and so is the uric acid. My blood pressure shoots up everytime I do strenous exercise. I am overweight (175 lbs). So I have stopped jogging and I can manage only some brisk walking. It was very frustrating as I watched the Davao Marathon from the sidelines instead of being a participant. I have tried another program to lose weight and become fit but it seems impossible during the Christmas season.
I am thinking of going on a journey across the Philippines on a bicycle from March 20 to April 15. I will be following the Maharlika highway -- from Davao to Surigao, then take the ferry to Leyte and onward to Samar and then cross to the Bicol region then to Manila. I might even proceed to the North -- up to the Ilocos Region. I will be travelling alone. A crazy idea -- but I am seriously thinking about it. I'll start training in January. If I get fit by March then I will definitely do it. Please pray for me that I might realize this dream.
This coming May, I have been invited to give a talk to a group of Young Redemptorists from all over the Asia-Oceania Region. So I hope to make my annual pilgrimage to Maria on the first week of May. I look forward to seeing you and the sisters.
Please continue praying for me. My warmest Christmas greetings to the sisters.
My dearest G,
Kumusta na? I'm sure that you are waiting anxiously for the orchids. The other day I got the orchids from Mrs. Sagrado. I waited for Sr. Clarisse today to pick them up. When nobody came I asked the secretary if there was any sister looking for me the last few days. She told me that somebody called last week while I was away and left a message that if I had anything to send to you I should bring it to the boat. Unfortunately, I came back late and the secretary forgot to inform me about the call. Even if I came home early, I wouldn't have been able to send the orchids since I only got these on February 8. I thought they were supposed to finish on February 10.
Anyway, I am left with these orchids. I guess I'll have to take care of these, make sure they don't wither and bring these to you when I visit you on the first week of May. The problem is I have never grown any orchids before. So just pray that they will survive the next two months.
I have just recovered from an ear infection. Actually, I went scuba diving in Iligan on December 30. The sea was rough and when I went under water, I couldn't equalize the pressure and my ear drums ruptured. So for almost one month I had problem hearing and the doctor advised me not to go diving until the ear heals. I was only able to go back diving a few days ago.
The preparation for my cycling-pilgrimage across the Philippines is underway. I have started intensive training on my bicycle. I have already mapped out my route. I will start my journey on March 26 and hopefully reach the tip of Northern Luzon (Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte) by April 13. I will be needing your prayers.
I am also asking for your prayers for two women (Malou and Edith) who have cancer in the lungs. They come to me weekly for prayer healing. Edith has undergone chemotherapy but it seems that instead of getting well, the cancer has spread to the nearby organs. Malou's cancer had recently been detected but she refused to undergo chemotherapy. We will have to pray for a miracle for them to experience healing. They are still young and it would be terrible to witness them die slowly.
Three weeks ago, an elderly woman, Mrs. Ferraren, asked me to pray over her. She had been hospitalized due to her lung ailment. The doctor wanted her to undergo operation but she refused. Last week I was surprised to see her at the Novena. When I met her afterwards, she told me that she had already gone to the doctor for new X-rays on the lungs and the doctor was surprised that the lungs had healed and there was therefore no need to operate on it. God is indeed good.
I will probably be in Siquijor on May 2 or 3 and leave for Bacolod on May 7. I am willing to give the sisters several talks/sharing on either the Trinity or Mariology (take your pick). I can also give introductory talks on the Enneagram. Please inform me beforehand what topics you want me to talk on.
My warmest regards to Mother Abbess and the sisters. Looking forward to seeing you.
On March 26, 2000 I set out on a cycling pilgrimage across the country -- from Davao to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. This journey covered more than two thousand kilometers along the highways of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. I've dreamed of doing this since I was a newly ordained priest. Since this is a jubilee year, I thought that this was the opportune time for making this pilgrimage. I planned to visit the various diocesan pilgrimage centers across the country -- from the south to the north -- and to sleep in the parish rectories along the way. I brought with me the prayer-intentions of my friends and parishioners. I also had my own special prayer intention -- to pray for peace in our land. I was going as a pilgrim for peace in a land torn by poverty and armed conflict. I had some misgivings about my own fitness. I was 45 years old, 167 pounds (25 pounds overweight), with a waistline of 36 inches. My determination would compensate for my limitations.
So after celebrating the Eucharist and getting the blessing of my superior, I set out alone towards the north. The solitude and silence enabled me to spend my time in contemplation, reflection and prayer. I also resolved to pray the three mysteries of the rosary while cycling. On the first day I reached Trento, Agusan del Sur, having covered 141 km along steep and winding roads. I arrived in Butuan City in the afternoon of the second day after cycling for ten hours. On the third day, I crossed from Surigao City to Liloan, Southern Leyte on a ferry boat. During the first three days, I cycled through heat and rain and I felt the onset of colds. I also felt a lot of muscle pains. I was surprised that on the fourth day, the pain and the colds were gone. After crossing the mountain ranges of southern Leyte, I reached Tacloban on March 29. So after being on the road for four days, I had a day of rest at the Redemptorist monastery in Tacloban.
On March 31, I continued my journey and crossed the San Juanico Bridge towards Samar. I reached Calbayog that afternoon after cycling 175 km in 11 hours. The following day, I took the ferry in San Isidro and crossed to Matnog, Sorsogon.
While travelling across Mindanao and the Eastern Visayas, I noticed the beauty of the countryside. I was also struck by the poverty, underdevelopment, and the militarization. Almost everyday, I passed a lot of military detachments and met many military convoys of trucks and APCs (armed personnel carrier). These were grim reminders of the ongoing armed conflict in the countryside. As I cycled through the Bicol Region, I observed the same landscape of poverty and militarization.
The ride to Sorsogon was very smooth along a flat highway. I focused on the present moment, savoring God's presence. I felt one with the bicycle and the road. Time and distance no longer mattered. It was an eternal now -- Zen on a bicycle.
I reached Legaspi City on April 2 -- a week after I started my pilgrimage. I took a day off at the Redemptorist monastery. I continued my journey the following day feeling refreshed and stronger. It was a great feeling seeing Mayon volcano from a distance. I was fortunate that by this time the volcano looked peaceful compared to several weeks before when it erupted. I reached Naga City before noon and I visited the three pilgrimage centers: the basilica of our Lady of Penafrancia, the old shrine church of Our Lady of Penafrancia and the Cathedral of Naga. After a quick lunch I continued my journey and reached Sipocot, Camarines Sur by 5 pm.
On April 5, I proceeded to Quezon province, taking the new Quirino highway. There were so many steep hills that I felt exhausted by the time I reached Calauag. The following day I was escorted to Gumaca cathedral by 22 cyclists of the Calauag Society of Cyclist. This was the first time that I was cycling with a pack. I got into conversation with some of the cyclists and before I knew it we were already in Gumaca after cycling for one hour and thirty minutes. After praying in the cathedral I said goodbye to the cyclists and proceeded to Lucena. Four of the cyclists decided to accompany me up to Lucena. The next day I pedaled towards Manila. I had my first flat tire in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. I finally reached Baclaran at 4 pm feeling tired yet contented. I had already cycled more than 1,500 km in a matter of 13 days. I spent a day off at the Redemptorist monastery in Baclaran.
The following day, I had lunch with Fr. Robert Reyes, the "running priest." He had ran all over the country to draw attention to various causes: peace, environment, national sovereignty, etc. After sharing experiences, we agreed do a bike for peace together around Manila after I finish my cycling pilgrimage.
On April 9, I left for Tarlac. Since I could not take the express-way, I cycled along the McArthur highway. When I reached Bulacan, I took the road which would have brought me to Cagayan Valley in stead of Tarlac. Fortunately, I learned about my mistake when I stopped by a store and bought some refreshments. I had to back-track another four kilometers before I found the correct route.
While passing Pampanga, I noticed the barren landscape brought about by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. I crossed bridges with dry river beds. I met a convoy of five military trucks filled with soldiers in full battle-gear. I wasn't surprised. This area has always been the hotbed of insurgency. While eating bananas I crashed on the asphalt road. There was a car following me. Luckily, the driver braked quickly. I only got minor bruises, no broken bones or sprains. I reached Tarlac at 4 pm after having covered 135 km. After concelebrating at the 6 pm mass, the bishop brought me out for a special dinner. The following day I continued my journey towards San Fernando, La Union. I could smell the aroma of dried tobacco leaves along the way. When I reached San Fernando at 4 pm, a man in a car cheered me on: "Go, Father, go!" After praying in the cathedral, the man who introduced himself as a lawyer and cyclist welcomed me and gave me an ice-cold Gatorade drink. Small acts of kindness like this lifted my spirits. The assistant parish priest of the cathedral warmly welcomed me and after concelebrating the afternoon mass with him, we went out for a drink in a nearby beach resort. The next day, I set out for Vigan . As I approached Tagudin, I met several cyclists who asked me if I was the cycling priest. They introduced themselves as members of the Metro Candon Bikers' Association and welcomed me. They said that they had read on the papers that I was passing through and they decided to welcome me and accompany me to their town which was still 30 km away. I really appreciated their company and forgot about the time and distance. When we reached Candon we had merienda and they gave me a special T-shirt with the logo of their association. After merienda I thanked them and continued alone towards Ilocos Sur. As I cycled on the highway which was along the sea coast, I noticed the beautiful blue sea on my left and the bare brown mountains on my right. Where have all the trees gone? Where are the forests? This was not the first time that I have seen bare brown mountains. I have seen a lot of them the last two weeks. But it was only that day that I was struck by the bareness of the mountains. Is this the effect of the greed of the logging companies?
When I reached Vigan at 3 pm, I was welcomed by Archbishop Abaya and Msgr. Venida who had just finished their meeting with the clergy. There was already a room prepared for me at the pastoral center, but the bishop insisted that I stay at the arzobispado, the two-century old bishop's residence. Since the archbishop was attending a dinner party, the parish priest, Msgr. Venida invited me for supper in his rectory. We finished a bottle of red wine while talking about the situation of the archdiocese. I was amazed that there is a growing number of priests like him who are fired with zeal for renewal in the Church and society, priests who are trying to build Basic Ecclesial Communities and committed to the poor. This is something that one does not expect in old, traditional dioceses like Vigan.
On April 12, I continued my journey to the tip of Luzon. It was a very smooth and easy ride. When I reached the boundary of Ilocos Norte, I was met by a cyclist who introduced himself as the assistant parish priest of Badoc, the first parish near the boundary of Ilocos Norte. He invited me to drop by his parish church -- a 16th century church which is the shrine of the Miraculous Virgin of Badoc. He accompanied me up to the boundary of the next town. I passed by Batac -- the hometown of the late dictator -- Marcos. I didn't bother to enter the town or visit his tomb.
I reached Laoag at 10:15 am. After taking some refreshments at a roadside store, I continued my journey towards the north. By noontime, I was already in Pasuquin. I had lunch with the parish priest. After the long lunch-break, I continued my journey. The scorching heat became unbearable by 2 pm. I occasionally stopped at some waiting-shed for rest and to escape the heat. The head-winds became stronger as I approached the town of Burgos. The road became more steep and winding. I groaned as I ascended the hills. It was really an agony cycling the last 30 kilometers to Pagudpud. I finally reached Pagudpud at 5:15, exhausted but euphoric. I have reached the northernmost tip of Luzon and of the Philippines. I had cycled 2,010 km in 18 days.
After spending a day of rest in Pagudpud and enjoying the beautiful beach, I cycled back to Laoag on April 14. After travelling for 73 km, I reached the Laoag cathedral. This was a fitting day to end my pilgrimage since this was the national day of fasting and pilgrimage. The cathedral was filled with pilgrims from the different parishes of the diocese. Almost of the members of the clergy were around to concelebrate in the Eucharist. I was introduced to the people as a pilgrim from the Mindanao and received a warm applause. I was so happy to be among pilgrims. This reminded my that the Church is a pilgrim people. Christian life is a pilgrimage towards the Kingdom of God.
I went back to Manila by bus that evening. I rested in Baclaran for two days. On April 17, I culminated my pilgrimage with a bike for peace around Manila with Fr. Robert Reyes and several cyclists. The following day, I took the plane back to Davao and was warmly welcomed by my confreres, friends and parishioners at the airport. The pilgrim has finally come home after cycling for 2,083 km across the Philippines.
My dearest G,
Greetings of Peace! I received your letter and invitation to St. Clare’s feast day. I was there in spirit as I remembered you and the sisters in my prayer and mass that day.
Are you back from your home visit? How’s your mother? The last time I was there you told me that you have applied for a longer stay in Tacloban to take care of your ailing mother. Was it approved?
For the last three months since the outbreak of the war in Central Mindanao, I have been actively involved in various peace initiatives. During the last week of May, I helped organized the Panaw sa Kalinaw, the peace caravan from Davao to Cotabato City across the war-zone. There were 64 buses, cars and trucks filled with Christians and Muslims that participated in the caravan. When we reached Cotabato on May 29, we set up a peace camp. We were joined by other peace advocates from Cotabato and the nearby provinces. The following day we encircled the Estosan Hotel, where the MILF and Government Peace Panel were holding the peace talks. We presented our demands for a ceasefire and a negotiated peace settlement. A month later we organized a huge peace vigil and rally in Davao. Simultaneous peace vigils were also held in different parts of the country.
Thanks for the prayers for peace in Mindanao. Please continue praying for us who are in the midst of the escalating spiral of violence. In spite our efforts to work for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict, the situation has worsened. The capture of over 50 MILF camps has not ended the war. The armed confrontation continues and there have been a series of bombings and massacres (as we have predicted). There are now more than half a million evacuees. The peace negotiation between the MILF and the government was terminated. There has also been a resurgence of the NPA guerrilla war. We in the peace movement feel helpless and discouraged as we realize the futility of our peace initiatives. This coming weekend, I will be attending a caucus of peace advocates to review our strategies. We are experiencing “battle-fatigue.”
Here in our parish we have started the process of Christian-Muslim dialogue of life and faith. There is a Muslim community in the upper barrio. We have met with the Christian and Muslim leaders and have agreed to continue the process. I hope that we can establish a zone of peace here and prevent misunderstanding and conflict between Christians and Muslims.
The first semester will soon be over. We will have a break from the middle of October to the first week of November. I will be attending a meeting in Cebu from October 16-22. Then we have a recreation and retreat for the midlifers. The recreation will be in Camiguin while the retreat will be in the Benedictine monastery in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
As usual I have a very heavy workload. I am teaching four courses this semester and five courses in the second semester. On top of these I give evangelization seminars in the barrios during weekends. There are so many other things I want to do but I don’t have the time. I often feel tired and there are times when I get depressed. I keep longing for the time when I can just leave all these things and go to the island of Siquijor. Spending time in your monastery, composing songs, praying and talking with you can re-energize me.
Please extend my warm regards to the sisters
With all my love,
My dearest G,
Merry Christmas! I hope this letter reaches you before Christmas. It’s been an eternity since I heard from you. Are you still there in Siquijor? Or are you already on home leave? I hope everything is alright with you. Sr. Carmen sent me a letter the other month telling me that she was going to be operated on before the end of November. I wonder if the operation was successful.
As usual your friend here is very busy. We have just celebrated the Mindanao Week of Peace. I was part of the organizing committee. We also organized a series of marches and rallies calling for the resignation of President Estrada. We are living in a very exciting time. We still don’t know the outcome of the impeachment hearing. I am very anxious about the results. If Erap is acquitted, I am sure that the crisis will worsen.
We’ve been receiving some criticism regarding our anti-Estrada homilies in our church. We are being accused of intervening in politics and violating the principle of the separation of Church and State. We can only answer that this issue is no longer just a political issue. It is a moral issue and we have to exercise our prophetic role. We cannot just keep quiet while the President continues to flaunt his mistresses and their mansions, engage in graft and corruption, bribery and illegal gambling. Above all he has adopted an all out war policy in Mindanao which has destroyed the culture of peace that we have tried to build through the years. Please pray that the senators will be guided by their conscience and vote to convict the President. Or better still, please pray that the president will just resign.
I am in the best of health. I have lost 18 pounds so far since I started my low carbohydrate-high protein diet six weeks ago. My waist line is shrinking. So by the time you see me next summer you probably won’t recognize me.
I will be spending my Christmas here in Davao. Immediately after Christmas, I will be cycling from Davao to Iligan –- across the Davao-Bukidnon mountain ranges. I will spend New Year there and then come back the same route.
Please extend my warm Christmas greetings to the community.
With all my love,
My dearest G,
Belated happy Valentine! I was thinking of you the other day but I was still down with pneumonia so I couldn’t do any writing. For the last three weeks I have been sick. I thought it was just an ordinary cold. Today I am feeling much better. The antibiotics seem to be taking effect.
Well, I got my enforced rest immediately after the People Power II victory. I was very busy last month being involved in the anti-Estrada campaign. Last January 13-14, I was in Manila to attend the KOMPIL II National Leaders’ Convention. The meeting was attended by leaders of the broad anti-Estrada coalition coming from all parts of the Philippines. Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was also part of the gathering. One of the organizers of the event was Dinky Soliman – an old friend -- who asked me and a Muslim religious leader to give the opening prayer/invocation . I prayed that the God who was present at EDSA 16 years ago, and whose miraculous intervention we have experienced during the impeachment proceeding would continue to be with us as we struggle against a corrupt president. I prayed for another miracle – the ouster of President Estrada through people power.
During that convention, we analyzed the situation, drew possible scenarios and discussed various strategies. Some were very pessimistic regarding the outcome of the impeachment trial. Others thought it was going to be very difficult to oust Estrada. Yet many of us were hopeful that somehow we would be victorious in spite of the odds. We were prepared for a long struggle.
Two days after I came home to Davao the miracle started to happen. On the evening of January 16, 11 out of 21 senators voted not to open the second envelop containing damning evidence against President Estrada. This led to the resignation of Pimentel as senate president and the walk-out of the prosecutors. The 11 senators showed their true color. They wanted to suppress the truth in order to protect the corrupt president. They were incapable of rendering impartial judgment and of voting according to their conscience. It seemed that Estrada was victorious – he was not going to be convicted. All this was seen on TV throughout the country. This triggered a mass outrage all over the country. People started to gather at the EDSA shrine and many other plazas all over the country demanding Estrada’s ouster. Thus begun People Power II. While being interviewed on TV here in Davao the following morning, I commented that “the impeachment proceeding was over, the terrain of struggle has shifted from the senate to the streets.” What was unique about People Power II was that although the center of gravity was at the EDSA shrine in Manila, it was also happening all over the country. Here in Davao we were able to mobilize our forces for vigils, motorcades, marches and rallies. Even the local clergy and religious were all actively involved. By Friday, as we were marching in the streets of Davao we heard the news that the top leadership of the military and police had withdrawn their support of the Estrada regime and sided with us. The following day Estrada was out of Malacańang and we have a new president – Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. All these happened so fast and so unexpectedly that many of us felt that this was indeed miraculous. Less than a week before, we were just talking about various scenarios and drawing up various strategies. And we thought it was going to be very difficult to oust Estrada I was not really surprised. This is what we had been praying for. This is what I expected to happen. Of course, I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. I thought it would happen around February – in time for the 16th anniversary of EDSA People Power I.
With the new administration, the prospect for peace and progress in our land is brighter. The peace process between the government and the MILF and NDF will now be reconstructed. Hopefully, there will be a cease-fire and a negotiated peace settlement. This is what I prayed for during my cycling pilgrimage for peace across the Philippines last summer. This is what we were praying and fasting for during the Mindanao week of Peace three months ago.
Of course, the problem of poverty is still here. I don’t think this will be solved overnight. At least the economic crisis was averted. Now I expect the government and civil society will work together to address this basic problem. Next week, we, the leaders of civil society and those involved in the anti-Estrada struggle here in Davao will have dinner with President Macapagal-Arroyo when she comes for a visit. This will be an opportunity for dialogue with her. We will share with her our concerns and expectations from her administration.
As I reflect about the recent events, I can really feel the presence of God in our midst. He is the same God who accompanied his people in their Exodus, the God who was present at EDSA 16 years ago, the God who never abandoned us and continued to be present with us in our struggle against an immoral and corrupt president. My heart is filled with joy and gratitude.
So how are things with you and your mother? You know it is a blessing for you to be with your mother in the twilight of her life. I wish I had the same opportunity – both my father and mother died suddenly. At least you can shower her with your love and prepare her to meet our heavenly Father. Of course it is not always easy to take care of the elderly and the dying. You need a lot of patience. They can be temperamental at times. Old issues can surface – especially if you are still carrying some hurts from the distant past. But it is a time of healing and forgiveness. Not too many sons and daughters experience this healing process with their parents.
Since you won’t be in Siquijor this summer, I will just go to Busay for my rest and retreat. I will be missing you a lot. I wonder when I can see you again. I am not sure if I will be around during the summer of 2002. I might be in Israel taking a short sabbatical – that’s the silver jubilee of my profession.
So all the best and God bless, hope to hear from you soon.
With all my love,
Here I am in Busay to start my period of solitude, prayer and rest. It took me about an hour and half of walking to reach this mountain overlooking the city of Cebu.
I actually started my vacation last week – but I couldn’t come up here since the students were using the place for their retreat. Instead I went to Moalboal where I went scuba diving. It was really fascinating, diving 100 feet under the sea and watching the beautiful corals and fishes at the sunken island and the Pescador island. I crossed to Agusan during the weekend to give a keynote address to over a thousand leaders of the BECs in the parish of Prosperidad.
I haven’t spent my summer here in Busay for quite some time. For the last three years I spent my summer breaks in your monastery in Siquijor. Since you are on home leave to take care of your ailing mother I have decided to come back to Busay. Siquijor won’t be the same without you.
Today is the 20th anniversary of my priestly ordination. I can’t believe that I am already 20 years a priest today. I spent the whole afternoon going over the last 20 years of my ministry: eight years as missioner helping build BECs in Leyte and Mindanao, six years doing further studies (2 years in Berkeley, 4 years in Rome), and six years in Davao as theology professor, associate parish priest and peace advocate. When I was ordained, I didn’t’ expect that this is how my priestly life would turn out to be. All I wanted was to spend my ministry as a missioner working in the remote barrios. But I had to respond to the needs of the congregation. I am not really in full control of my life or destiny.
By God’s grace, I have been faithful to my priestly vocation these last 20 years. I remain a celibate – no wife, no kids. I sometimes envy my friends of my age who have successful careers and whose kids are now in college. But I don’t have any regrets. My need for intimacy is being fulfilled by a few close friends like you. My need for generativity is being fulfilled by my ministry in the parish and the BECs – working among young people, and teaching future Redemptorist priests. I have written some books that will outlive me.
What does the future have in store for me? I really don’t know. I expect to be assigned here in Davao for at least the next seven years. No second liner has been sent for further studies in Dogma. Anyway, I really like to continue teaching, doing pastoral work on a part-time basis and theologizing. At the same time I also have to be prepared to take on other assignments and responsibilities in the future. The next twenty years should be exciting.
I am almost 47 years old and twenty years a priest. Next year I will be celebrating the silver anniversary of my religious profession. The story of my life continues to unfold. So many chapters remain to be written. What will the future hold? I do not know. Life is full of surprises. What I can only be sure of is that I will remain faithful and true to the promises and commitments that I have made in my youth. This includes celebrating the diamond jubilee of my ordination, God willing. Meanwhile, as I go through the noontime of my life, I am faced with the challenge of sharing the love I have received. In the evening of my life when the time comes for me to meet the Lord, I can truly say that I have lived my life to the full, I have kept my promises, and I have truly loved.
As I look at my life until now, I can say with St. Therese that ALL IS GRACE -- and my heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving.
With all my love,
p.s. I am enclosing a poem I wrote which sums up my whole life up to now.
A Psalm of my Life
I praise and thank you wonderful God
for your love endures forever.
You have always loved me
and you continue to show your love for me,
your love endures forever.
You have nurtured me and cared for me
ever since I was in my mother's womb,
your love endures forever.
You called me by name
Amado: the beloved
to remind me constantly that
your love endures forever.
When as a helpless baby I had pneumonia
you saved me from the clutches of death,
your love endures forever.
When my sister drowned
and I blamed myself for her death
you consoled me and freed me from guilt,
your love endures forever.
You blessed me with an abundance
of gifts and talents,
your love endures forever.
In my youth you called me to leave my home
and follow your Son,
your love endures forever.
You revealed yourself to me
and I felt your presence
as I lived and worked with the poor
and shared their misery and their dream,
your love endures forever.
You heard my screams and groaning
when the goons of the dictator
abducted me and interrogated me in the torture chamber
and dumped me in the stinking prison camp.
even in my suffering and doubt you strengthened me,
your love endures forever.
You delivered me from the hands
of my torturers and jailers
after seven horrible months,
your love endures forever.
You heard my cry of lamentation
as I watched the body of my friend
fished out from the sea,
and you consoled me,
your love endures forever.
As I went about the towns and barrios
proclaiming your Kingdom
your Spirit was with me
strengthening me and spurring me on
in spite of the harassment and discouragement,
your love endures forever.
When the goons of the dictator
robbed and murdered my mother
I doubted your love
but the culprits died a month later,
and the dictator was deposed thereafter,
your love endures forever.
I have felt your presence in the midst
of the poor in their struggle
to transform this world and build your kingdom.
In their powerlessness you have been their strength,
your love endures forever.
You have blessed me
with overwhelming experiences of love and friendship
that I may feel more deeply your loving presence,
your love endures forever.
In my sojourn in strange and distant lands
you have blessed me with friends
who made me feel at home,
your love endures forever.
Heavenly Father, as I grieved over my father's death
you once again consoled me and made me aware
that I am his beloved son in whom he was well pleased.
His love reminded me
of your love that endures forever.
You sent me a beautiful friend, my beloved,
who made me realize that it is possible to love
and be loved by someone whom I cannot always see or touch.
She constantly reminds me
of your love that endures forever.
I will praise and thank you God
for you have always loved me
and will continue to show your love for me all the days of my life
and even beyond death.
Your love endures forever.